Langerholc to Introduce Legislation to Provide Training and Job Opportunities for Individuals in Recovery

Building on Pennsylvania’s commitment to combatting the state’s growing heroin epidemic, Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) will be introducing legislation that will establish a pilot program to help individuals in recovery obtain meaningful employment opportunities.

Langerholc’s legislation will create the “Recovery to Work Pilot Program” to connect individuals in recovery with high-priority occupations through local workforce development boards.  

“An important, yet often overlooked, side effect of this epidemic is the vicious cycle that many individuals with a history of substance abuse fall into when trying to find and maintain steady employment,” Langerholc said.  “Meaningful employment is essential to an individual’s long-term recovery.  It provides a renewed sense of purpose and helps those in recovery support themselves and their families.”

Langerholc said the pilot program will be spearheaded by the Department of Labor and Industry with the assistance of the departments of Health, Community and Economic Development, and Drug and Alcohol Programs, as well as the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. 

These departments will develop a plan for the local workforce development boards to work with the treatment and recovery community as well as local employers and training providers to offer job training and employment opportunities to individuals in recovery.
 
“Since the local workforce development boards will be leading the implementation of the pilot program, the strategies will be locally focused to meet the needs of area employers and the local treatment and recovery community,” Langerholc said. “Additionally, the legislation will provide incentives for businesses and training providers to participate in the program so that we can reach more individuals in need.” 

Langerholc added that Pennsylvania is heading in the right direction with its continued attention to this serious epidemic, including the governor’s recent declaration of the crisis as a public health emergency.

“This move will help the state better focus response efforts and get help to those in need,” Langerholc said. “According to the Centers for Disease Control, Pennsylvania has one of the worst overdose rates in the country.  This epidemic has reached crisis proportions and requires us to focus our resources.  My legislation is one more effort to provide those in recovery with the tools they need to succeed.”

CONTACT:  Gwenn Dando – (717) 599-1164

McGarrigle Bill Setting Standards for PA Addiction Recovery Houses Set for Enactment

Harrisburg – Legislation sponsored by Senator Tom McGarrigle (R-26) to establish quality standards for addiction recovery houses in Pennsylvania received final approval today and will be sent to Gov. Wolf to be signed into law.

Senate Bill 446 calls for the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) to establish standards for the licensure or certification of recovery houses that receive funds or referrals from DDAP or a federal, state or other county agency.

“The purpose of these facilities is to provide support for those suffering from addiction after they leave inpatient treatment or correctional facilities. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous operators sacrifice a desperate attempt at recovery to make a profit,” said McGarrigle. “Enactment of this measure will establish standards aimed at saving lives and taxpayer dollars.”

Under Senator McGarrigle’s legislation, regulations established by DDAP must include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A policy that ensures residents are informed of facility rules, residency requirements and lease agreements.
  • Policies and procedures for management of funds in accordance with standard accounting practices.
  • A policy ensuring criminal background checks for operators and employees.
  • Policies and procedures addressing the safety of residents.
  • Policies for maintaining building safety standards.
  • A prohibition on owners, administrators and employees from requiring residents to sign over their public assistance benefits.
  • Policies and procedures for managing resident complaints.
  • Polices that promote recovery by requiring resident participation in treatment or other recovery supports.
  • Policies requiring abstinence from alcohol and illicit drugs.

State license or certification will be for a period of one year. Under Senate Bill 446, DDAP must maintain a registry on its publicly accessible website of all licensed or certified drug and alcohol recovery houses in the Commonwealth and update the registry annually.

Senator McGarrigle and colleagues acted after news articles brought to light cases of facility operators fueling addictions, exploiting residents and employing counselors who use drugs.

Senate Bill 446 is based on standards and criteria developed by the National Association of Recovery Residences, whose Pennsylvania chapter has been working with owners of facilities who have voluntarily sought certification. The administration and enforcement of the act will be funded through fees for certification and fines levied as a result of violations.

“The addiction crisis is affecting communities in every region of Pennsylvania, and access to effective treatment is vital in turning the tide,” said McGarrigle. “People entering the recovery process have taken the crucial first step to a better, productive life. Approval of Senate Bill 446 sends the message that we will not let that journey be cut short due to lack of oversight.”

Senate Bill 446 was originally approved by the Senate in June. It was amended and approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, with the Senate voting today to approve the amended bill.

CONTACT:     Mike Rader mrader@pasen.gov (717) 787-1305

Senate Approves Bill Addressing Opioid Abuse, Escalating Costs Under Workers’ Comp

On October 25, one day before President Trump declared America’s opioid crisis a public health emergency, the Senate of Pennsylvania approved legislation to address opioid abuse within Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation system.

The passage of Senate Bill 936 came on the heels of a recent investigatory report from the Philadelphia Daily News which exposed a new business arrangement between lawyers and doctors. The report illustrated in detail how attorneys representing injured workers have jointly purchased pharmacies with the physicians who treat their clients.

This alliance has created a profit motive for providers to dispense drugs in greater quantities and for longer durations than medically appropriate and has contributed to Pennsylvania’s disreputable distinction as a leading state for opioids prescribed to injured workers.

The bill, introduced by Senator Don White (R-41), Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), and Senator Mike Regan (R-31), would require the state Department of Labor & Industry to adopt an evidence-based drug formulary for Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program. 

“The adoption of a drug formulary, which is commonplace in health insurance, will set evidence-based standards for the medication that can be prescribed to a Workers’ Comp patient,” explained Senator White (R-41). “In addition to lowering costs and providing better care for patients, this proposal will greatly assist the Commonwealth in our battle against the opioid addiction crisis,” he added.

“The basic goal of our Workers’ Compensation system should be getting injured workers healthy and ready to rejoin the workforce. By removing the profit incentive from prescribing practices, Senate Bill 936 addresses both the financial and human costs of this questionable business arrangement,” added Senator Regan (R-31).

“I commend my Senate colleagues for advancing Senate Bill 936, to protect the health of injured workers and our communities,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25). “Addressing the opioid crisis facing our Commonwealth has been and continues to be a top priority for our Caucus.  We are hopeful that the House of Representatives and Governor Wolf will join us in support of this legislation, as a crucial step to combat the opioid crisis.”  

Senate Bill 936, which passed the Senate with bi-partisan support, is awaiting committee referral in the House of Representatives.

 

Contact:          Joe Pittman                 jpittman@pasen.gov

Senate Endorses Yaw Bills Limiting Opioid Prescriptions; Updating PDMP Requirements

HARRISBURG – Legislation limiting the amount of opioids that individuals may be prescribed won bipartisan approval today in the state Senate, according to the bill’s prime sponsor Senator Gene Yaw (R-23).  The bill, Senate Bill 472, addresses the increasing risk of individuals becoming addicted to opioids and heroin after being prescribed painkillers, and is one of several bills introduced by Yaw aimed at curbing the drug epidemic that has killed, on average, more than 13 people per day in Pennsylvania.

According to Sen. Yaw, the bill would limit the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to a seven-day duration unless there is a medical emergency that puts the individual’s health or safety at risk.  The bill also includes exceptions for cases involving acute and chronic pain, cancer treatment or for palliative care or hospice care.  In those cases, the medical professional would be required to document the medical condition in the individual’s record with the prescriber and indicate the reason why a non-opioid alternative is not appropriate to address the acute medical condition.

The bill, as amended by the Senate, also includes exceptions when a patient remains in an in-patient or hospital setting and when a prescriber is continuing a treatment initiated by another member of the prescriber’s practice.

Senate Bill 728, also approved by the Senate, would amend the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) Act to exempt Schedule V epilepsy drugs currently included in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) querying requirement.

“While we must do everything we can to curb doctor shopping and reduce illicit prescription drug abuse, I want to ensure that we are not unintentionally hindering access to medicines without evidence of abuse for patients who rely on them on a daily basis,” Yaw noted.

“Throughout the three years of hearings by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, testifiers commented about how an oversupply of medications prescribed to individuals can be a springboard to becoming addicted to prescription opioids,” Yaw said.  “By re-evaluating current prescribing practices, we take another important step in our collective efforts to rein in this heroin and opioid addiction crisis in our state.”

 

CONTACT:
Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff
(717) 787-3280

Yaw Announces “State of Addiction” Public Hearing

 

09-28-2017 – Senator Gene Yaw announces an October 26th public hearing in Williamsport on the “state of addiction” after three years of investigation of the heroin and opioid crisis in Pennsylvania. Thursday – October 26th 9am – 1pm Walnut Conference Room, UPMC Susquehanna, 700 High Street, Williamsport, PA 17701

HARRISBURG – State Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), Chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors, announced today that the Center will hold a public hearing in Williamsport on Thursday, October 26, 2017 to gather information on what is being done at the federal, state and local levels to tackle the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic. 

Joining Senator Yaw at the hearing will be fellow Center Board Members Vice Chairman Representative Garth Everett, Board Secretary Dr. Nancy Falvo from Clarion University, President of Indiana University of PA Dr. Michael Driscoll and Penn State Professor Dr. Timothy Kelsey.

“In 2014, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania held its first public hearing on the heroin and opioid crisis affecting the Commonwealth,” Sen. Yaw said.  “That hearing, also held in Williamsport, was followed by 11 additional public hearings over the next two years, resulting in over 70 hours of presentations from more than 150 professionals, family members, and people in recovery.  The hearings created statewide awareness supporting and resulting in numerous legislative and administrative initiatives to combat a disease that now claims more lives each year than those lost to traffic accidents.”

Yaw added that the focus of the October hearing is to understand where Pennsylvania is, three years later, in its efforts to confront all of the issues surrounding heroin and opioid addiction.  “We are inviting professionals in the fields of law enforcement, the judiciary, treatment and recovery, business and industry, and education and prevention to offer testimony on where we are now in combatting this crisis and where we need to go.”

The public hearing will be held in the Walnut Conference Center at UPMC Susquehanna, 700 High Street, Williamsport, PA  17701 and will begin at 9AM.

Members of the public and media are invited to attend and coverage is appreciated. 

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan, bicameral legislative agency that serves as a resource for rural policy within the Pennsylvania General Assembly. 

The Center works with the legislature, educators, state and federal executive branch agencies, and national, statewide, regional and local organizations to maximize resources and strategies that can better serve Pennsylvania’s nearly 3.5 million rural residents.

CONTACT:

Barry Denk, Director
Center for Rural Pennsylvania
(717) 787-9555

Center for Rural Pennsylvania Releases Report on Growing Heroin Epidemic

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HARRISBURG – The Center for Rural Pennsylvania today released a report summarizing the findings of four statewide hearings held to examine the growing numbers of heroin and opioid related deaths and arrests across Pennsylvania.  Two of the findings highlighted support for legislation currently under consideration in the General Assembly: one bill that would provide immunity to an individual who contacts authorities in the event of a drug overdose and a second that would expand the types of drugs monitored under the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

The report lists additional items for consideration that were addressed by the more than 50 presenters, who included law enforcement officials, health care providers and family members who lost loved ones to heroin and other opioids. These items focused on the areas of education and prevention, law enforcement, and treatment.

“This epidemic affects individuals of every age, gender, race, and background,” said Senator Gene Yaw, Center board chairman. “The increased use of heroin, which often has roots in the abuse of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin, has catapulted Pennsylvania to seventh in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths in the latest federal statistics.

“Right now we have a public health crisis facing rural Pennsylvania,” Senator Yaw said. “Although our focus was specifically on heroin use in rural Pennsylvania, we know addiction has no municipal, county, or state boundaries.  It is, across the board, a statewide and national epidemic impacting residents of every age, race, gender and socioeconomic background.  Simply locking people behind bars is not the answer.  We, as a state, need to do more.”

Over a two-month period, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors, consisting of members of the House of Representatives, Senate, Governor appointees and academia, joined legislators from across the state for the hearings. The hearing sites were selected to achieve geographic representation and perspectives reflecting the diversity of Pennsylvania.

Legislative action was urged by those who testified.  Legislation mentioned included Senate Bill 1164, which would provide immunity to an individual who contacted authorities in the event of a drug overdose.  To further strengthen this proposal, an amendment was offered to expand the accessibility of the opioid antidote drug, naloxone also known by the trade name Narcan. With this amendment, naloxone would be available to first responders such as law enforcement or fire department personnel.  Health care professionals would also be able to provide a prescription for naloxone to persons at-risk of an overdose, family members, or an individual who may be in the position to assist a person who is suffering an overdose.

The hearings also identified the need to improve the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (Senate Bill 1180/House Bill 1694) to expand the types of drugs monitored under the existing system. Currently, data are collected for Level II controlled substances.

Three primary themes repeatedly mentioned during the hearings included: educating individuals to the dangers of opioid abuse; increasing the accessibility and availability for those seeking treatment; and providing law enforcement with the tools to help eradicate heroin from our communities.

The report is available on the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s website at www.rural.palegislature.us, as well as links to the testimony from the public hearings.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan, bicameral legislative agency that serves as a resource for rural policy within the Pennsylvania General Assembly. It was created in 1987 under Act 16, the Rural Revitalization Act, to promote and sustain the vitality of Pennsylvania’s rural and small communities.

Contact:

Barry Denk, Director
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania
(717) 787-9555